Always the wrong ideas!
Airbats, 801 TTS
MSRP: $29.95 (hybrid DVD)
Running time: Approx. 175 minutes
Rating: 15 UP
Copyright © 1994 Toshimitsu Shimizu / Tokuma Shoten - JVC
801 TTS Airbats (original title: Aozora Shoujotai, or "Blue Sky Girls' Squadron") is a series that caters to a breed of otaku that's relatively little-known in the west-- the military fanboy. Oh sure, there are plenty of weekend warriors who subscribe to Soldier of Fortune and play paintball and go target-shooting-- but in Japan, things are a little different. The lack of availability of any real guns makes it real hard to be a gun or military fanboy, so a lot of folks have to content themselves with either joining the JSDF (Japan Self-Defense Force) or, as some background characters amusingly do in Airbats, just hang out on the perimeter of the base and ogle the cool military toys.
Airbats main character is sort of like that-- he's a nerd who gets to have his wish fulfilled by joining the JSDF as an airplane mechanic. His name is Isurugi, and he's a fairly likeable chap who gets transferred to the 801 TTS air squadron at the beginning of the series. It's at this point that the target audience of Airbats gets to have their wish fulfilled, because it turns out that the 801 TTS is an all-female stunt team. They're kinda like a female version of the US Air Force's Blue Angels-- at least, it seems that way at first.
Isurugi starts off hopeful. After all, what could be better than working for an all-female stunt flight squadron? He soon finds out, to his dismay, that the 801 TTS are staffed by morons. The commanding officer, Konishi, is charismatic, but has absolutely no organizational or management skills. The pilots are also fine pieces of work-- the youngest, Yoko, is a hideously bad pilot. Another of the group, Saginomiya, is sweet and even-tempered and a fairly good pilot, but she has a hideous gambling addiction that she indulges at every opportunity. The group is rounded out by Miyuki, an ace pilot who got transferred to the 801st after hitting her commanding officer, and Mitaka, a daredevil with a penchant for getting into brawls.
More fanboy wish-fulfillment occurs as Isurugi finds himself caught in a romantic tug-o-war between the sweet, demure Miyuki and the saucy, aggressive Mitaka. Along with that, the 801st are constantly subject to a stream of events which threaten their very existence. If it's not a flight evaluation test, it's a competition with an American trick squad (complete with their own busty female pilot, who looks a lot like Linn from Adventures of Kotetsu and happens to be named "Yeager". Ha!), or some other foolishness. Of course, given the fanboy-pleasing nature of the series, there's the obligatory trip to the hot springs, complete with boob-shot. Airbats, which consists of two sets of OVAs totaling 7 episodes, wraps up with a surprisingly sweet affair focusing on Saginomiya and Konishi.
Airbats is no great shakes, but it's hard to be offended by this completely tame, run-of-the-mill fare. For his part, animator/designer Yuji Moriyama and his team manage to cram in plenty of goofball references to other anime, and even give the series "Pyogora", its own version of Godzilla. What also helps is the animation quality, which is generally nice. The detail on the planes is impeccable (no doubt thanks to the cooperation of the Japan Self-Defense Force themselves), and the characters are generally cute and appealing. (With the exception of Patriot, the base dog, who... who... well, just look at the freaking picture.)
Once again, ADV have pulled off a nice DVD package, slapping the entire series into one, compact, 2-disc set for just $30. The video looks good, there's a surprising amount of extras (including bits with the Japanese cast), and the subtitles are nice and crisp and readable. The dub is certainly adequate, though most hardcore fans will want to pay attention to the Japanese cast. If Airbats has one thing going for it, it's the seiyuu-- Isurugi himself is played by Shin-ichiro Miki, well-known to Weiss Kreuz fans as Yoji, Miyuki is portrayed by Aya Hisakawa, and Mitaka is played by Ai Orikasa, who does particularly well here. The cast is rounded out by Kikuko "Belldandy" Inoue as Saginomiya and the always cool-sounding Norio Wakamoto as Konishi.
So in the end, Airbats is all about an aircraft technician whose dream is to turn his flight team into the Harlem Globe Trotters of the air stunt world. As such, the series deserves a few points for originality, despite being pretty derivative otherwise. Some things in Airbats amused the hell out of me-- particularly the portrayal of the American team as loud, loutish, and HUGE, and the revelation that Yoko is a very mean drunk. Airbats may contain few surprises, but it still makes for good, light entertainment.